Despite Similar Treatment Outcomes, BC Disparities Persist

By Lou Portero - Last Updated: March 11, 2022

The number of patients who survived after receiving presurgical chemotherapy or surgical removal of breast cancer tissue was not affected substantially by the patients’ race. However, the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium showed that disparities are present in patients with incomplete pathological responses. Research carried out by the National Cancer Institute Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) Program shows that the breast cancer mortality rate is 40% more in black women than white women.

Beverly Kyalwazi, a study author/medical student from the University of Chicago, stated that despite improvement in breast treatment and management, the death rate in black women still significantly exceeds that of white women. An I-SPY 2 (Investigation of Serial Studies to Predict Your Therapeutic Response with Imaging and Molecular Analysis 2) trial involving 990 women presenting with stage 2 and 3 breast cancer sought to evaluate if pathological complete response and variations in the expression of immune-related genes were influenced by race. Dr. Olufunmilayo Olopade of the Chicago Center for Clinical Cancer Genetics made it known that an advanced understanding of these racial disparities and responses would help researchers in their work.

The researchers found out that residual cancer burden distribution, event-free survival, and many other factors were not affected by race as the pathological complete response was 32%, 30%, and 32% for White, Black, and Asian patients, respectively. However, Black patients who didn’t achieve event-free survival or presented with HR-positive/HER2-negative disease experienced disease recurrence and a higher mortality rate than their white counterparts.

Kyalwazi noted that complete pathological response was independent of the race would improve equal access to quality and effective care. However, in her presentation on the I-SPY 2 trial, she said that race would continue to be an essential part of breast cancer-related talks. Still, understanding that its effect was minimal would help focus more on improving access to quality care.

The University of California Breast Care director, Dr. Laura Esserman, who is also a principal investigator in the I-SPY 2 trials, has noted that various races have greater death rates due to breast cancer. She concluded that improving the participation of underrepresented races in trials and ensuring complete genomic profiling would improve trial outcomes and discovery.


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